oklahoma department of corrections

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

In response to growing numbers of both COVID-19 infections and deaths possibly caused by the virus across its prison system, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced Tuesday new measures meant to get outbreaks under control.

"Every time I learn of a new case, it really makes me sick," said Scott Crow, director of the agency, at a press conference with Gov. Kevin Stitt at the Capitol, "because this is extremely important."

"A positive case makes me sick, but an inmate death even makes me sicker," Crow said.

Facebook / Oklahoma Department of Corrections

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections reported Wednesday that a second woman incarcerated at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft has died, possibly of COVID-19.

The agency said Wednesday it was unable to confirm her identity due to medical privacy laws, but family members, inmate advocates and a cosmetology program for incarcerated women identify her as Vernita Watts, 70. Watts' status in the DOC's publicly available inmate database was changed from "ACTIVE" to "INACTIVE" at some point on Wednesday or Thursday.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced Monday another major coronavirus outbreak at one of its facilities, a prison for men in Vinita.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections on Thursday reported the death of a second inmate who tested positive for COVID-19.

The male inmate from Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington was admitted to an Oklahoma City hospital more than a week ago with COVID-19-related symptoms and died on Wednesday, the agency reported. The man’s name was not released.

In a statement, DOC said, "The man had signed a do not resuscitate directive and requested the hospital withdraw all treatment."

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A woman incarcerated at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility in Muskogee County, where more than 700 women have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, has died after being hospitalized with "symptoms associated with COVID-19."

"Due to several health issues, the medical examiner’s office will review all underlying medical facts and conditions to determine if COVID-19 was a significant factor in her death," according to a statement from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

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Hundreds more women incarcerated at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft have tested positive for COVID-19 since the state initially reported a major outbreak there last week.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said that, as of noon on Thursday, 721 women had active cases of the disesase caused by the novel coronavirus, with three hospitalized. The facility houses around 900. Eddie Warrior is a minimum-security facility, with open dormitory-style housing units.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

More than 500 people incarcerated at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility, a minimum-security women's state prison in Muskogee County, have tested positive for COVID-19, an outbreak causing the Muskogee area's infection data to soar.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections cancelled visitation at all state prisons over the weekend following an outbreak at the Lexington Correctional Center, where 87 inmates inside one housing unit tested positive in the last 24 hours. All of the inmates reported no symptoms prior to testing and were placed in isolation, the agency said in a press release.

OK.gov

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has announced plans to move about 1,400 inmates out of a medium-security private prison in Cushing that has been the site of some of the state’s worst prison violence in recent years.

The decision announced late Thursday is part of a cost-cutting move as a result of a $24 million budget cut, which is about 4.4% of the agency’s annual budget, said DOC spokesman Justin Wolf.

A conservative think tank is making the case for a ballot initiative that would do away with repeat offender sentence enhancements for nonviolent crimes.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs found enhancements were applied 80% of the time, despite district attorneys saying they’re used selectively. OCPA Executive Vice President Trent England said people convicted of petty crime or struggling with addiction shouldn’t go to prison for decades.

Facebook / @OklahomaDOC

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted to recommend special medical parole for 12 inmates determined to be at elevated risk from the coronavirus pandemic.

At a virtual meeting of the board on Wednesday morning, Steven Bickley, the body's executive director, explained how the specific inmates ended up on the docket. 

"The agency received a letter from [Oklahoma Department of Corrections] Director [Scott] Crow on Friday, May 1st, recommending 14 inmates for medical parole," Bickley said. "That is authorized by him under statute."

State of Oklahoma

An Oklahoma Senate panel advanced on Tuesday the nomination of Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow to hold the job on a permanent basis.

Crow said preparing inmates to successfully re-enter society will be a focus under his leadership. That will build on a transition fair concept proposed by Oklahoma First Lady Sarah Stitt and used before hundreds of inmates were released in a wave of commutations in November to connect them with housing, jobs and other services.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Corrections says a man who escaped from a minimum security state prison in McAlester has been captured.

The department says 40-year-old Jeremiah Hobbs was arrested Monday following a traffic stop 75 miles away from McAlester in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow.

Hobbs disappeared Thursday from the unfenced Jackie Brannon Correctional Center. The corrections department says a woman identified as Hobbs' girlfriend was also arrested during the traffic stop on a warrant for harboring a fugitive.